The Toronto Raptors may be without one of their best players in Philadelphia on Sunday when they try to claw back from a 2-1 deficit versus the 76ers.
Pascal Siakam is doubtful for Game 4 after the rising star power forward suffered a right calf contusion on Thursday in Toronto’s lop-sided Game 3 loss.
The 25-year-old forward from Cameroon has been an offensive force for the Raps in the post-season, averaging 22.9 points through eight games. He is Toronto’s second-leading scorer behind Kawhi Leonard (31.5 points per game).
Siakam is used to being one Toronto’s most consistent players this season. Siakam played in 80 of the team’s 82 regular season games, and all of its playoff contests so far.
“It's weird,” said Siakam. “I feel like the team can always count on me to be out there every single night, but things happen.”
Siakam was vague when asked if he knows exactly when and how the injury happened, saying there was lots of contact in Game 3.
“I don't know exactly when it happened, but after the game I was just like really sore. I think it calmed down a little bit, then I felt worse,” said Siakam.
He was asked if the injured leg is the same leg he used to kick out in frustration at 76ers star centre Joel Embiid in Game 3. Siakam had driven to the hoop, and fallen to the ground as his shot was blocked by his fellow Cameroonian. While down on the floor, Siakam reached out his leg and tripped the Sixers big man. Siakam confirmed his injured leg is the same one that he used to trip Embiid, but he doesn’t know if that was that play that caused the contusion.
“Not sure. Once again, I think there was a lot on the block -- I fell. I think I fell really bad the play after,” said Siakam. “There was a lot of contact. I was on the floor a lot.”
It’s a very uncomfortable predicament for the Raptors -- who risk going down 3-1 in the series – since they have struggled to get scoring from players not named Siakam or Leonard lately. The team has also had shaky production from its reserve players in this series. So far versus Philly, the Raptors bench is shooting 24 per cent from the field and averaging just 10 points per game, far below their regular season average of 36.2.
“It’s just next man up thing if that is what it turns out to be. I think we still got 24 hours or so for it to play out,” said Raptors Coach Nick Nurse. “I don’t think there is anything seriously wrong structurally - you know what I’m saying - that is ruling him out 100% or we would be telling you he is out 100%.”
It’s very unclear who the fifth starter could be if Siakam misses the game. The Raptors have only used three bench players for meaningful minutes in the playoffs – Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet, with very minimal spot minutes for Jodie Meeks. The Raps are still without key bench player OG Anunoby, who continues to heal after an appendectomy he had on April 11.
“It’s just like every other time someone has been out this year whether it’s Kawhi or Kyle [Lowry] or whoever,” said Nurse. “We just got to plug in with what we got and probably introduce someone else into the series who hasn’t played yet.”
It’s entirely possible Nurse could call on Patrick McCaw, who has played little role in the playoffs so far, mostly just end-of-game minutes in blow-outs. He appeared in 26 regular season Raptors games this year and made one start. McCaw has some experience starting in the post-season, having started three games for the Golden State Warriors in a 2017 first-round series versus the Portland Trail Blazers, in place of an injured Kevin Durant.
Should Siakam not play, the Raps would need increased scoring from Lowry. The All-Star point guard has not been scoring as much this season, taking a different role that focuses more on enabling scoring opportunities for players like Leonard and Siakam.
“Well, next guy up, we got to step up, I’ve got to step up even more, I’ve got to step up way more than I have, and that will be the challenge for us,” said Lowry, who shot 2-for-10 in the Game 3 loss and had plus/minus of minus-28.
“I'm going to take what the game gives me…be a little bit more aggressive. I might take some shots that I haven't taken in about a year and a half. Forcing — not forcing, but taking some shots that may be a little bit tougher than they usually are, but I'm gonna play. And that was going to be the mindset no matter if Pascal played or not.”
Game 4 is scheduled for 3:30 pm Sunday in Philly, and then the series swings back to Toronto for Game 5 on Tuesday.